BENEFITS & RESTRICTIONS
Who wouldn’t want to live in a Conservation Area! Ancient sandstone cottages set in a medieval pattern of roads and lanes. Houses of character beautifully located in wide open, flower-filled gardens. The coast, with fantastic views over the Mersey on one side and over the Dee towards the hills of Wales on the other. Leafy glades, shady nooks and crannies rub shoulders with unexpected vistas all adding their own charms to our unique Conservation Areas. What a contrast to perhaps some of the more tedious aspects of look-alike housing estates!
But in order to keep these special places ‘special’ there are tight restrictions covering alterations and additions to buildings. Planning applications in Conservation Areas need to conform not only to the Council’s planning policies for such areas but also to take account of the comments and recommendations in the Appraisal and Management Plan for each individual area. In addition any work on trees in Conservation Areas, from pruning to felling, requires the permission of the Council. It is to the benefit of all that everyone who enjoys the privilege of living in one of these extraordinary areas should conform to the requirements of so doing.
Full list of the planning requirements may be found at:
In addition the Appraisal and Management Plan for each area can be found by clicking on the relevant Conservation Area on the ‘Maps’ page
RESTRICTIONS ON DEVELOPMENT IN A CONSERVATION AREA
In a Conservation Area planning permission is required for :
- Exterior cladding in any type of material – stone, artificial stone, pebble dash, render, timber, plastic or tiles
- Side extensions, or the construction of any other building or structure to the side of the house
- Rear extensions of more than one storey
- Roof extensions, including insertion of dormer windows
- The installation, alteration or replacement of a chimney, flue or soil and vent pipe visible from the highway
- Erection of an aerial or satellite dish facing the highway
- Erection of solar panels on roofs, principal or side walls which are visible when facing the highway
- Limits on the size of domestic and industrial extensions
- Demolition of walls, buildings or structures
- A separate “listed building consent” is required for the demolition or alteration of a listed building (inside or out), or structures within the curtilage of a listed building including the boundary treatment
- Pruning or felling of trees requires permission for which you must give the Council six weeks notice. Trees smaller than 7.5cm measured at 1.5m above ground are excluded unless they are covered by a Tree Preservation Order.
BUYING A PROPERTY IN A CONSERVATION AREA
What is a Conservation Area?
Conservation Areas (CA) were first established in the UK by the 1967 Civic Amenities Act which allowed the local planning authority to determine areas of special architectural or historic interest, landscape and history. This was followed by the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 which gives Local Authorities (LA) the power to designate ‘Conservation Areas’. There are more than 8000 CA’s in the UK and in practice many of them cover residential areas.
How will I know if the property I’m interested in buying is in a Conservation Area?
It may not be immediately obvious that an area has been designated. Estate Agents should advise you on exactly where the Conservation Area is, where the boundaries lie and which roads are included, as well as the benefits of living there. Your Conveyancing Solicitor should provide you with more information if you are buying in a Conservation Area and highlight the restrictions.
Where are Wirral’s Conservation Areas?
Wirral Borough Council started to designate Conservation Areas on Wirral from 1970’s. The latest designation was Lower Bebington in 2014. At the moment Wirral has 26 designated Conservation Areas
What are the advantages and disadvantages of living in a Conservation Area?
Once an area has been given Conservation Area status, the Local Authority develops and enforces policies as to how the desirable features of the area should be preserved or enhanced. The policies will vary from one Conservation Area to another, and may vary over time as new guidelines or restrictions are introduced in consultation with local residents. These restrictions will be particular to your individual zone, which will have its own character. Because of the restrictions, any improvements, extensions or repairs you make are likely to take more time and may cost more money. (See below for information on maintaining and repairing properties in a Conservation Area.)
However, homes within a Conservation Area retain their value, even during economic downturns. Buyers often state original features as one of their top priorities. Far from feeling compromised by the guidelines, potential buyers may welcome them. Living in a Conservation Area can offer a friendly, welcoming local feel by being in a neighbourhood that is part of history, that brings with it community spirit, with all residents taking pride in maintaining part of their local heritage.
MAINTAINING A PROPERTY IN A CONSERVATION AREA
Naturally, if you are attracted to a property in a Conservation Area, then you are unlikely to want to do anything which would be detrimental to the overall appearance of the outside of your property and which would have an adverse impact on the neighbourhood. However, it is very important to undertake regular maintenance of your property which should mean that costly repair work is either unnecessary or infrequent.
Undertaking substantial alterations
Generally, you will find that you may not be able to alter the outward appearance of your home. Not only are you likely to face problems with planning extensions or other significant works, but relatively minor changes such as an outside colour paint change may also be disallowed. The general idea is that any changes made should be ‘in keeping’ with the character of the area.
What about repairs?
Essential repairs to the existing fabric of the house may have restrictions as to the design and choice of materials used. For example, if you have to replace rotten window frames you may find that you can’t use UPVC, or possibly double glazing. Similarly, if your boundary wall or fence needs to be repaired, you will need to use materials of the same type or take advice from the Local Authority Conservation Officer.
Do the restrictions apply to trees and gardens?
Trees and Gardens are given blanket protected status. This means you may not remove any trees on your property without permission. Similarly, many Conservation Areas do not allow the conversion of front gardens into hard standing for cars. It is not impossible to achieve exceptions to the rules. A case could be made to fell a particular tree and the Council will offer advice to assess whether permission should be granted.
Exceptions to the rule
Most of the guidelines are open to interpretation, especially since they often concern matters of taste. It pays to check in advance with the Local Authority. Unfortunately, it is not unknown for people to have to undo the work they have done i.e. replace new roof tiles with something more appropriate or demolish a new porch.
Before undertaking any work to your property, it is advisable to contact the Conservation Officer at the Local Authority. It is their job to advise you on what can and can’t be done, how to go about applying for listed building or planning permission, and also specialist contractors who can undertake the work.